Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine

Spring/Summer 2016

2016 Annual Meeting: Behavioral Medicine at a Crossroads

Kathleen Wolin, ScD, Program Committee chair; David X. Marquez, PhD, Program Committee co-chair; and James F. Sallis, PhD, SBM president

The Society of Behavioral Medicine's (SBM) 2016 Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions kicked off with an exciting opening keynote delivered by Omada Health CEO Sean Duffy. Mr. Duffy told the story of dropping out of Harvard Medical School to launch a company dedicated to bringing the Diabetes Prevention Program to the commercial market. Omada is one of the few digital health companies in the diabetes prevention space to have published their clinical trial data in peer-reviewed journals. Sharing both their story and data with SBM resulted in an exciting overview of the translation of evidence-based interventions into practice.

The theme of translating evidence to practice carried into the keynote delivered by Jeanette Betancourt, EdD, senior vice-president of Community and Family Engagement at Sesame Street Workshop. Dr. Betancourt discussed the ways in which her team is drawing on research to target many aspects of child growth, including cognitive, social, physical, emotional, and educational development. Jody Heymann, MD, PhD, dean of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health, focused her keynote on the translation of research into policy, with a focus on the elimination of health disparities. And Andrew J. Hoffman, PhD, who delivered the closing keynote, challenged the academic community to move themselves outside of research and become engaged in broader discussions related to our research, both for setting policy and funding. 

Catherine M. Alfano, PhD, in her stimulating master lecture, continued the theme of collaboration and connection between academic and non-academic partners while discussing a team approach to survivor care. Jessica Donze Black, RD, MPH, focused on policies to support school nutrition – an area in which we have made great progress. 

But, we must continue to evolve in how we do our research. During her master lecture, Susan L. Murphy, ScD, OTR, pushed attendees to think about new study design approaches (i.e., micro-randomization, just-in-time adaptive interventions) that utilize scarce research resources to more quickly answer pressing questions. In her presidential keynote, Marian L. Fitzgibbon, PhD, spoke on evolving and adapting to the changing world and options around us. Describing the twists and turns of her career path and the changing approaches she has used to answer questions, Dr. Fitzgibbon highlighted that our field is ever evolving and that we must evolve with it.

Many of these topics extended into the rigorous science presented throughout the meeting in paper and poster sessions, symposia, panel discussions, and seminars. Meeting sessions about social media use, HIV prevention, and healthy eating received national press coverage, confirming that the science presented at SBM is highly impactful. New at this year's meeting was a session focused on null results - something every researcher is familiar with but often has little opportunity to present. Conference attendees enjoyed learning from the times we haven't found what we were hoping for as much as when p<0.05.

The upcoming 2017 Annual Meeting theme is "La Buena Vista: Expanding Horizons in Behavioral Medicine". We have a beautiful view from the mountain of valuable evidence our field has created over the years. From this vantage point we should be looking in multiple directions for new horizons so we can make progress in research, practice, and policy. Some highlighted speakers in San Diego will inspire and instruct us how to get our research used more effectively to improve practice and policy. The Program Committee has received excellent suggestions from the membership for content and is looking forward to the symposia, paper, panel discussions, and poster submissions to showcase SBM as a thought leader in this space.